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Butterflies of Texas

 

Texas butterflyTexas butterflyTexas butterfly

How many butterflies are in Texas?

495 butterfly species have been found in Texas over the last 130 years (a little under 3 percent of the known world butterfly fauna). Eastern and Western species plus periodic colonists from tropical forests to the South all converge in Texas and result in the greatest number of butterflies found in any of the United States.

What use are butterflies?

  • Butterflies are important pollinators, fourth in importance after beetles, flies and bees.
  • Few caterpillars of butterflies are listed as economic pests.
  • Butterflies are as useful in the teaching of natural history as are birds, but unlike birds, they may be studied more closely by collecting.
  • Butterflies are objects of beauty and myth that were appreciated by the Mayans, Aztecs, Greeks and other older cultures. Our largest butterfly, the two-tailed tiger swallowtail or llamorada, was known to the Aztecs as Xochiquetzalpapalotl, and considered one of the forms taken by their deity.
  • Butterflies are a source of inspiration to artists and poets.

How long have there been butterflies?

Butterflies evolved from moths sometime between 245 million years ago (when the oldest fossil moths were preserved in Triassic rocks) and 110 million years ago (when the oldest butterfly parts were preserved in Cretaceous amber). By 40 million years ago the major family groups of butterflies are found in Eocene rocks.

The 70 million year old snout butterflies that flew in the Cretaceous with dinosaurs were very similar to those that swarm in Texas today.